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Maryland men’s soccer vs. Wisconsin preview

Coming off a top-10 win, the Terps will resume their conference slate.

maryland soccer vs virginia Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

After an overtime victory at Ludwig Field on Monday over No. 9 St. John’s, Maryland men’s soccer (4-3, 0-1 Big Ten) will make the trek to Madison to face the Wisconsin Badgers in its second Big Ten match of the season on Friday night.

Last Monday’s match was a return to form for head coach Sasho Cirovski’s defense, which shut out the No. 11-ranked scoring offense in the country after it allowed a defensive-oriented Northwestern team to score three goals, matching its single-season goal total, two days prior.

But a stout defensive performance fueled by a slight formation change has the talented Terp back line back on track.

“We have to just be less generous with the chances we give teams,” Cirovski said. “The strength of this team has to be its lockdown defending and mitigating or minimizing the risk we take in our defensive third [of the field].”

Maryland has controlled the all-time series against the Badgers, winning seven of the nine games played between the two clubs. But the latter has fared better of late, beating the Terps in each of the last two meetings.

“Wisconsin’s a very well-coached, organized team,” Cirovski said. “They can beat you various different ways. They have our attention, and we also know them well and we’re very excited to have the opportunity to go there and continue to build on the last game.”

Wisconsin Badgers (2-6, 0-0 Big Ten)

Head coach John Trask is in his 10th season as head man for Wisconsin after arriving in 2010. Over that span, Trask has made significant steps toward reviving what was once a dormant program, leading the Badgers to a 129-96-55 (.567) record while capturing the program’s first-ever Big Ten tournament title in 2017.

Players to Know

Senior defender Robin Olofsson (No. 5) emerged as an essential cog in Wisconsin’s defense last season, starting every match while playing less than 90 minutes just once. His efforts on the Badger back line were enough to earn the Stockholm-native a spot on the All-Big Ten second team, as well as the responsibility of holding down Trask’s defense.

Senior midfield/defender Noah Leibold (No. 15) plays a role similar role to that of Maryland’s Nick Richardson, serving as an ideal two-way midfielder to fit into the center of Trask’s rotation. A former Big Ten All-Freshman Team honoree in 2016, Leibold enters his fourth season as a fixture in the starting lineup, doing all the little things to help make the Badgers’ engine go.

Senior goalkeeper Dean Cowdroy (No. 30) has been the go-to option in net ever since he transferred from Lander University in 2018, posting a 10-7-2 record with Wisconsin while recording seven shutouts in 26 appearances. Although a bit diminutive for the position at 5’8, Cowdroy manages to make up for the lack of height with his instincts under duress and ability to captain the Badgers’ last line of defense.

Strength

Discipline. For a team that’s mostly made up of underclassmen, Trask has his club playing disciplined soccer through its first eight matches. This season, the Badgers have committed roughly 11 fouls per game, ranking outside of the top 50 teams in the nation, while receiving only seven yellow cards, tied for the sixth-fewest in Division I.

Weakness

All-around offense. The Wisconsin offense has been abysmal through the early part of this season, having been shutout five times already this season while only scoring five total goals. The Badgers attack ranks in the bottom five in the nation in shots per game (5.43) and shots on goal per game (1.88), and it ranks 185th in Division I in scoring offense.

Three things to know

  1. Will Eli Crognale miss his second straight match? Crognale was forced to miss Maryland’s last match against St. John’s, the first match the senior captain has missed all season. On Wednesday, Cirovski announced that he was still day-to-day and that his status for Friday night would be determined once they got closer to game time. The Terps managed to pull out a win against a top-10 team without Crognale on Monday, but missing the team’s leader for an extended period could be a major blow.
  2. Can Maryland travel across the country and pick up a win? Friday’s game marks just the second time the Terps have had to leave the DMV to play a match, the only other time being when they traveled to California to face UCLA in a match they lost 3-2. Having to cut their week of practice short and travel thousands of miles can have an impact on any team, but the Terps are confident they arrive in Madison and bring their A-game.

“I would say it doesn’t really affect us that much,” freshman midfielder Nick Richardson said. “It’s a little mental battle, you gotta be in a kind of a 24-hour timeframe where you’re preparing for the game just because you have a lot going on. You’ve gotta be mentally prepared, you’ve got to physically prepare a few days more.”

3. Has Niklas Neumann secured the starting goalkeeping job? Despite Cirovski rotating in both Neumann and freshman keeper Russell Shealy, the former appears to have thoroughly outplayed the latter through seven games. In three appearances, Neumann has posted a line of 0.62 GAA, 81.1% save percentage, and only two goals allowed, compared to 1.51/53.8%/6. Based on stats alone, the job should be Neumann’s, but it should be interesting to see whether Cirovski’s sticks to his guns and rolls out Shealy.